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After a marriage breakdown and three months sleeping rough, things looked desperate for father-of-two Stuart Deamer.
But the 38-year-old from Tonbridge has turned his life around after becoming an apprentice at housing repairs specialist Keepmoat.
Mr Deamer had worked for Network Rail for 10 years but lost his home when he split with his wife in April, having moved with his family to Scunthorpe in March 2012.
Homeless, he travelled back to Kent and started to get his career back on track after seeing an advert for Keepmoat’s Kickstart programme.
Mr Deamer, who was sleeping rough at the time, said: “There was a poster advertising the Kickstart project and I thought ‘that’s just what I need right now’.
“I had thought ‘I’m a bit too old for this sort of thing, I’m not going to get anywhere with the application’ but I also thought, ‘what have I got to lose?’
“I initially got a call to say I was unsuccessful, but someone dropped out so I got another call saying they were still interested in me.
“To start with the Kickstart programme was just about getting me back into employment.
“Being accepted for the programme gave me a confidence boost and things started to look up for me.
“Keepmoat offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity, in fact a second chance at life that I am grabbing with both hands.
“Now I’ve discovered you get a much greater degree of job satisfaction in housing which I really like.
“You can take these skills with you and they work for you anywhere whether it be another job or fixing up your own house.”
Mr Deamer is now six months into a two-year apprenticeship, and is one of 179 apprentices at the company.
Keepmoat Property Services managing director Mike Edwards said: “While many of our apprentices are recent school leavers who are starting out in the world of work, Stuart is clear proof that you can retrain and learn a new trade whatever your age.
“Apprentices are an integral part of Keepmoat’s 3,000-strong workforce as we look to try and build the next generation of construction talent.
“Investing in apprenticeships is not just about creating short-term jobs but teaching our apprentices skills which will help them to build life-long careers.”
The KM Group wants to get 100 companies to take on an apprentice through its Kick Start Kent initiative, with IPS International, KATO and MidKent College. For details about hiring apprentices, click here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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